UNF Alert 21

Dear colleagues,

The UN General Assembly (UNGA) officially opened on Tuesday, September 13, 2016, marking the beginning of what promises to be a significant 71st session. 70th PGA Mogens Lykketoft reflected on the year in his final press conference, where he highlighted changes to the process in the selection of the next UN Secretary General. He has formally handed over the office to the 71st PGA Peter Thomson of Fiji, who has pledged to prioritize sustainable development and climate during his upcoming term.

With the first ever Heads of State and Government-level summit on refugees and migrants; a high-level event and #globalgoals week to mark the first anniversary of the SDGs’ adoption; a special climate event to accelerate entry into force of the Paris Climate Agreement; the fifth Security Council straw poll on the next SG; and more – this year’s UNGA is shaping up to be just as full and important as last year’s. Below is a run-down of key UNGA events, as well as updates on the latest in the SG selection process, SDG Indicators and Data.

Best regards,

The UNF Policy Team

Monthly Monitor: UNGA Look Ahead

UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants

On September 19, the PGA will convene a high-level meeting (HLM) on refugees and migrants, with the goal of bringing governments together behind a more humane and coordinated response to large movements of refugees and migrants. Heads of State and Government will formally adopt the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, a document that lays the groundwork for two global compacts on refugees and migration, ahead of an International Conference on Migration in 2018. Many see this GA summit as a timely opportunity to reframe the debate on refugees and migrants, take a stand against xenophobia, and make clearer the linkages between the plight of refugees and migrants, longer-term sustainable development planning, and the 2030 Agenda’s core principle to “leave no one behind.”

The outcome document was agreed after months of careful negotiations, co-facilitated by Ambassador David Donoghue (PR, Ireland) and Ambassador Dina Kawar (PR, Jordan). Among the most contentious issues throughout this debate were: the notion of equitable responsibility-sharing, the capacity of developing countries to host large numbers of refugees, and the role of humanitarian assistance; whether or not to include references to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs); the detention of minors; the protection of unaccompanied children; emphasis on social integration vs. return to country of origin; and more. In the annexes of the outcome document, member states commit to working toward: a Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework; the achievement of a Global Compact on Refugees in 2018; and the achievement of a Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration in 2018.

While many had hoped that more concrete commitments and funds to fill the humanitarian financing gap would have been agreed ahead of time, many civil society partners are focusing their advocacy efforts to highlight the HLM as a starting point, rather than the culmination, of efforts to support refugees and migrants, especially in the lead up the 2018 conference.

The Summit will consist of six multi-stakeholder roundtables; concept notes are available here.

Leaders’ Summit on Global Refugee Crisis

Complementing the GA’s Summit on September 19, United States President Barack Obama will host a Leaders’ Summit on the Global Refugee Crisis on the margins of UNGA, on September 20. The summit is co-hosted by the governments of Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico and Sweden.

The purpose of the summit is to mobilize new global commitments to:

1)      Increase funding to humanitarian appeals and international organizations;

2)      Admit more refugees through resettlement or other legal pathways; and

3)      Increase refugees’ self-reliance and inclusion through opportunities for education and legal work.

While the GA’s Summit will address large movements of both refugees and migrants, this summit will focus solely on commitments for refugees.

Sustainable Development Goals Anniversary and  #GlobalGoals Week

This year’s UNGA will have a strong focus on sharing innovative solutions for achieving the SDGs, from the Social Good Summit and Solutions Summit to the Global Compact Private Sector Forum, the announcement of SDG Young Leaders, several exciting data events (more below), and the Global Citizen Festival to cap off the week. On September 20, there will be an unprecedented high-level event in the GA Hall to celebrate the first anniversary of the SDGs and to inspire rapid and early SDG implementation. The event will be webcast live on UNTV from 8:30-9:00 am, and an SDG Media Zone, running from September 19-23, will allow communicators to share real-time updates on new SDG announcements. In addition, a “#GlobalGoals Week” will help keep the drumbeat going on social media throughout the week. (The #GlobalGoals social media toolkit available here.)

Special Event to accelerate entry into force of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change

On September 21, SG Ban Ki-moon is convening a special event to encourage countries to officially join the Paris Agreement on climate change. While the agreement was reached last December, in order to enter into force at least 55 countries representing at least 55% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions must formally join it. Earlier this month at the G20, the US and China joined the agreement, representing a major turning point, as those countries alone contribute 38% of the world’s emissions. Brazilalso recently joined the agreement, bringing us closer to the threshold for this agreement to enter into force.

As a “101 guide on the Paris Agreement” states: “We’re more than halfway to reaching the percentage required, and nearly halfway to reaching the number of countries required to bring the agreement into force, but there’s still work to do”. Some countries will also use the event to announce their commitment to join it by the end of the year. “Early entry into force would help jump-start the most important step – implementation, when countries ‘put their money where their mouths are’ on climate action by acting on the commitments they made last year. Early entry into force will also give businesses, investors, and individuals confidence that the world is taking seriously the urgency of addressing climate change.” This hour-long event will be livestreamed on UN TV at 8 am EST, so tune in as leaders from around the world announce their commitments to join this historic climate accord.

High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance

On September 21, the PGA will convene a high-level meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). The purpose of the meeting is to maintain strong political commitment to addressing AMR, and to increase and improve awareness of it. Ambassador Juan José Gómez Camacho, PR of Mexico, facilitated negotiations of the outcome document, which will be adopted at the plenary.

This year’s High-Level Meeting on AMR will be only the fourth time in GA history that a meeting is convened around a health-related topic, indicating its importance. The meeting will emphasize the role of governments and UN agencies – including the tripartite of WHO, FAO, and OIE (World Organization for Animal Health) – in responding to the challenges of AMR and will highlight the need for cross-sectoral efforts including human and veterinary medicine, the agriculture and food industries, environmental groups, and consumers.

The HLM will include leaders’ statements of support for the outcome document, as well as two panel discussions on: 1) the relevance of addressing AMR for the achievement of the SDGs, in particular the health-related Goals, and 2) addressing the multi-sectoral implications and implementation challenges of AMR in a comprehensive manner.

SDG Indicators and Data

The fourth meeting of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), will be held from October 18-21, 2016 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting will be hosted by the UN Economic Commission for Africa. This meeting will have a slightly different format from prior meetings of the IAEG-SDGs, with a Members meeting taking place during the first two days (October 18 – 19) and a Plenary Session taking place during the second two days (October 20 – 21). Applications to attend the plenary session are due by September 17 and can be found here.

The UN Statistics Division has announced that Statistics South Africa will host the first UN World Data Forum (WDF) from January 16  – 18, 2017 in Cape Town, South Africa. The WDF will bring together public and private measurement experts, statistical producers, information system specialists, and users as well as all other key stakeholders to discuss data for sustainable development. The WDF was first proposed by the SG’s Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution and then mandated by the UN Statistical Commission.

There are numerous UNGA side events that will focus on data including on gender data, data for climate resilience, big data and migration, national data needs for SDG implementation, multi-dimensional poverty measurement, data innovation, and others. The Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data, hosted by the UN Foundation, will celebrate its one-year anniversary at a side event on September 21 where it will showcase progress on several priority activities this year as well as partner commitments and collaborations.

Next SG process 

After four Security Council straw polls, the pool of candidates for the next Secretary General has thinned to nine people: four women and five men. António Guterres has placed first in each of the straw polls, but with two discourage votes in the latest poll, he still is at risk of drawing a veto. Indeed, observers have speculated that Russia may veto Guterres to make way for an Eastern European candidate.

Female candidates have so far fared poorly in the straw polls, to the disappointment of advocates for a female SG. However, there have been rumors of a possible late entry to the race.  Kristalina Georgieva, who was speculated as a contender in the early months of this race, has recently been mentioned in the press as a possible candidate.

It is likely the SG race will be a hot topic of conversation among country delegations in NY during UNGA week, especially leading into the next straw poll on September 26. The Security Council has indicated that it will introduce colored ballots in early October and is expected to hold a vote on October 17. While the Security Council has indicated that it would like to recommend a candidate to the GA in mid-October, that time frame is not set in stone.

Look Ahead:

  • September 15-16: World Oceans Conference, Washington, DC
  • September 19-25: Climate Week, New York, NY
  • September 19: Global Compact Private Sector Forum, New York, NY
  • September 19: UN Summit on Managing Movements of Migrants and Refugees, New York, NY
  • September 20: President Obama Summit on Refugees, New York, NY
  • September 20: UNGA General Debate Opens
  • September 21: UNGA High-Level Meeting on Antimicrobial Resistance, New York, NY
  • September 21: International Day of Peace
  • September 24: Global Citizen Concert, New York, NY
  • September 26: 5thSecurity Council straw poll to assess SG candidates, New York, NY

Must reads:

Together in Hangzhou, China for the G20 summit, US Presidents Obama and Chinese President Xi announced their countries’ formal ratification of the Paris climate change agreement. The two countries are responsible for close to 38% of world carbon emissions, so their ratification is a major step toward achieving the 55% of global emissions needed for the Paris agreement to be enacted.

In Trade Insight Magazine, Debapriya Bhattacharya and Umme Shefa Rezbana address the South Asian approach to the SDGs, noting that two fifths of the world’s poor live in South Asia and acknowledging that extreme poverty, poor governance and security challenges tend to inhibit development in the region.

Mustafizur Rahman, Towfiqul Islam Khan, Md. Zafar Sadique and Mostafa Amir Sabbih have created an action plan for addressing deficits in data in Bangladesh with the aim to improve data availability to allow Bangladesh to better measure its progress in achieving the SDGs.

Lyndal Rowlands highlights claims that rich countries aren’t taking their critical role in implementing the 2030 Agenda as seriously as they should be. David O’Connor, James Mackie, Daphne van Esveld, Hoseok Kim, Imme Scholz, and Nina Weitz have written a working paper for World Resources Institute on early SDG implementation in selected OECD countries, focusing particularly on universality, integration and transformational approaches.

Bhaskar Chakravorti, Senior Associate Dean at the Fletcher School at Tufts University, discusses SDG 17 and the role of the private sector in helping to implement the 2030 Agenda in Forbes, explaining how companies can reach local contexts, scale up solutions, reduce risk and mitigate free rider problems.


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